The Big DigPosted: February 18, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, infection | Tags: Barney Frank, Boston, breast cancer, construction, DIEP, ET, haz-mat, I-93, infection, Methodist Hospital, new boobs, nurse practitioner, plastic surgeon, reconstruction, the Big Dig 39 Comments
Yesterday was yet another trip to the medical center, for one last pre-op visit to Dr Spiegel before reconstruction. I really need to think of a catchy title for the surgery, something like Boston’s big construction project, the Big Dig. Come to think of it, there are some similarities between the Big Dig and my surgery: both relate to the Central Artery and Tunneling (in fact, the official name of the Big Dig is the CA/T Project). Both are complicated, involve lots of people, and take a mighty long time to complete. But unlike the Big Dig, which replaced the 6-lane elevated Central Artery (I-93) with a 3.5-mile long underground tunnel, my surgery won’t cost $22 billion. Hopefully. My insurance company, which has been mighty nice so far, might just stroke out about that figure.
The Big Dig sounded like a great idea and was intended to be a tremendous boon to an already kick-ass city. But mismanagement, scandal, and skyrocketing costs quickly dominated headlines, and my second-favorite city had a big mess on its hands. Congressman Barney Frank quipped, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city than depress the artery?”
Say what you will about Barney, but that’s a good line.
But back to the update on the doctor visit. This was Trevor’s day to meet the lovely Dr Spiegel, her ultra-energetic PA, Jen, and her trusty nurse Sonia. My friend Laura, who is a nurse practitioner in the liver transplant unit at Methodist, met us there, too. Dr Spiegel wanted to brief my caregivers on what to expect post-surgery, and Laura kindly offered to help out. In her white coat and super-stylish glasses, she brought a nice element of professional gravitas to the occasion. She told Dr Spiegel that she’s done some match-making for me and picked out an anesthesiologist she likes and trusts, and Dr Spiegel agrees that Dr Ashmore is the guy for me. Laura and Sonia recognized each other right away, then she and Jen hugged and high-fived, happy to be collaborating on my case. It’s good to have connections.
The visit itself was pretty uneventful. I like uneventful at the doctor’s office. Dr Spiegel went over a few basics with us but since we were pretty much up to speed on everything, there weren’t any new developments. I’m finished with all the pre-op testing (bloodwork, blood donation, x-rays, EKG, CT-scan), and just need to watch the video consultation on Dr Spiegel’s website to get a more detailed overview of the procedure. I’m not saying I’m scared to do that, but after watching a video on youtube of an actual surgery, on an actual person, I’m not in a big hurry. Ick.
The one topic we did need to cover, though, was the infection. I wanted to bring it up in a way that seemed breezy and conversational, as opposed to, “How the sam hell are you going to keep this bloody nightmare from recurring, lady?” I was pretty sure that wouldn’t go over too well.
I’m not the most diplomatic person, and I tend to say what I really think, even if it’s not pretty or may be hard to hear. It’s a blessing and a curse. Believe it or not, I actually do put a lot of thought into what I say and how I say things, but because I’m pretty direct, sometimes things come out a bit, um, harsher than I intend.
Sorta like, “Are you outta your mind??? You’re not really going to wear that are you?” or “Clearly that person has neither friends nor a mirror; why else would one go out in public looking like that???” as opposed to “Have you thought about what to wear?” Those kinds of niceties take a bit of work on my part. My instinct is to just blurt out whatever needs to be said, and let the chips fall where they may. We’re all grown-ups, right?
Right. Except I really don’t want to tick off the nice lady with the very sharp scalpels. That would be bad. So I fumbled around and probably sounded idiotic by saying, Um, so, uh, like, how worried do we need to be about the um, you know, infection? You know, like, um, during the uh, reconstruction?
She smiled knowingly, and if she’d been sitting closer might have patted my hand and said, there there. She reminded me that my case isn’t exactly normal, and I tried not to tell her that “normal” is pejorative and listened to what she had to say.
She has a plan, of course, and it sounds like a good one. Usually, in cases of infection, she would wait to do reconstruction, to be sure the infection is truly gone. But in my case, which again is not normal, we need to get in there sooner rather than later and clean up the mess, i.e., excise the damaged tissue and replace it with some new, fresh meat. And by meat I mean my own flesh. Fresh flesh. Yum.
The plan is to work on the infected side last, and she promised to take her time and wash it all out thoroughly with 6 liters of antibacterial solution. That’s way more than usual. She’ll have separate fields of instruments, and once the instruments touch the infected area, they’ll be classified as contaminated. Remember the scene in the movie ET at the end, when the little guy was dying, and the family home was a warren of plastic sheeting populated by feds in Haz-mat gear? I’m having visions of the Haz-mat suits. But hopefully no aliens. Although I do kinda like the polka-dotted kiddie pools in this scene.
So we’re on track, on schedule, and presumably ready to go. She estimates the surgery will last 8 hours, not 12-15 like I’d originally heard. Of course, we won’t know what we’re dealing with until she actually gets in there and starts cutting and scraping away, but I’m going to be optimistic.
Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of a name for my own personal Big Dig (if you have ideas, send them em!), and can’t wait to post before and after pictures like this:
Except, I won’t make you look at the before pics, because they’re pretty gross, and that would just be mean.